Huawei is "open" to selling its 5G chips and other silicon to rival smartphone maker Apple, the company's founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, told CNBC.
Apple has not yet released a 5G-ready iPhone, and Huawei could be a potential vendor for 5G modems.
Huawei is "open" to selling high-speed 5G chips and other silicon to rival smartphone maker Apple, marking a significant shift in the Chinese tech giant's thinking toward its own intellectual property.
The world's largest networking equipment maker has been in the consumer market for a relatively short amount of time with its own-brand smartphones, but it has quickly risen to become the third-largest vendor by market share.
Huawei started by selling phones at low prices but in recent years has shifted focus to increase its market share in the high end of the market, battling Apple and Samsung. As part of that move, Huawei has developed its own chips, including a modem to give smartphones 5G connectivity, and a processor to power its devices. 5G is next-generation mobile internet, which delivers data at very high speeds.
So far, those pieces of technology have been used only in Huawei's devices. That could change.
In an interview with CNBC that aired Monday, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said the company would consider selling its 5G chips to Apple.
"We are open to Apple in this regard," Ren said. The CEO spoke in Mandarin, which was translated into English by an official translator.
Apple is unlikely to want Huawei's processor known as the Kirin 980, because it already has its own processor. But the 5G chip could be of interest.
Apple hasn't released a device capable of supporting 5G. The company previously used modems from Qualcomm and Intel for its iPhones, but its latest device uses only silicon from the latter. Apple and Qualcomm are locked in a series of legal battles relating to patents.
Qualcomm has a modem that can support 5G, while Intel’s product isn’t expected to hit the market until 2020. That means Huawei could become a viable alternative if Apple wants to release a 5G-ready phone this year.
Apple declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.